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Don’t Call Yourself a Developer If You Don’t Code (mariopeshev.com)
22 points by ZnZirconium 11 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 73 comments

Call yourself whatever you want. There's no need to gatekeep a title which means so little in the first place.

Totally agreed. I regularly introduce myself as a doctor to new acquaintances, since I occasionally visit the pharmacy to fill some prescriptions. It totally pisses me off when they insist on asking me what medical school I went to, and elitist crap like that!

It has to do with the risk and impact of your work.

Medical doctors, engineers, lawyers, researcher, teachers - they all do important things and need training, selection and accountability.

Luckily, developers never have to write MCAS software for Boeing, so we can hang out on HN where you can be a Senior Engineer after a 6 months bootcamp and 2 years of stack overflow.

Data safety isn't nothing though. Developers should have some appreciation for security vectors, laws around its collection, storage and processing, and knowing when (and how) to delete it. Accessibility. Deployment. What happens when it all goes wrong. Far from an exhaustive list but you can see what I mean.

I don't think anybody is arguing about what people do for themselves, but advertising yourself as a developer when you might have no experience or training, misleads people. Gives the rest of us a bad name.

This is real a problem for freelance developers. In the 15 years or so I've been doing it, I've heard at least 30 stories of how "the last guy" critically underdelivered, and there's basically an expectation I'm going to run off with their cash. I relieve them of this pretty rapidly but it's a very defensive process.

You are really missing the point and my sarcasm here...

"licensed medical professional" != "developer"

What if you develop software for medical equipment?

As developers we’re lucky enough to be able to find industries where our education/certications doesn’t matter. On the other hand, some niches which could use an actual licensed training program.

You could in theory teach yourself enough about the medical field to know more than a doctor, still the doctor has a piece of paper saying that someone checked his or her qualifications. Even a CS degree doesn’t tell you anything about a persons abilities to write software.

What if you develop software for medical equipment?

Then you're a programmer, not a doctor.

still the doctor has a piece of paper saying that some checked his or her qualifications

Yes. That's how we keep the frauds and whackjobs from killing people.

"Gatekeeping" is a dirty word on HN, but it also has its usefulness. We don't let just anyone drive a car, even if they really really really think they know how. You have to have a license.


> Especially considering that its literal definition is "requiring people to actually understand how to program computers

Too bad no one ever told Microsoft about that...

Yea i was going to ask how the license would differ from a CS degree. I assume you're thinking of more of an .. apprenticeship arrangement? Something to vet the authors capability?

The problem here is "developing" is so loose and unique that it's difficult for me to even imagine a useful certification. Lets take easy examples - can someone make a store front to handle incoming transactions? Well firstly that tells me nothing of the scalability, security and mostly importantly maintainability of the software. It tells me nothing about the language of choice, assuming i care.. which you usually do if there's a team involved and you're trying to integrate a new employee.

But even if we ignore those we still have the biggest issue that i see; software development tends to be unicorns, imo. Every project i've worked on is largely unique, and while there is overlap - eg all of it is APIs, the quality of the work (if i was to self judge) was solving the problems inside the "Web API CRUD".

In a building analogy - i don't care that you can build a house to spec. I care that you can architect the floor plan, decide features yourself, future proof as best you can, etc.

Perhaps there's some level of architect certification that matches this, no idea. But i care about peoples generic ability to problem solve, to find information and suss out real application. Their ability to build a house according to spec is of little to no interest to me.

Medical licensing came about precisely because there were too many quacks and incompetents claiming to be qualified doctors who were harming or killing patients.

It looks like this bit didn't show up in the parent comment for you:

> a title which means so little in the first place

>Call yourself whatever you want.

I agree, call yourself whatever you want.

At the same time, expect to get a few quizzical looks from potential employers or clients looking for a developer when you tell them you can't actually code.

To be clear, the issue at hand is calling yourself a developer when you are one step higher than typical on the abstraction chain (e.g. WordPress). So far, the responses to this comment have chosen to take it outside of that context, and compared it to calling yourself a doctor when you have no medical education, a Navy Seal and combat veteran when you are neither, and the president of the United States.

There is apparently no limit to how false an equivalence can become.

> calling yourself a doctor when you have no medical education

... as opposed to calling yourself a developer when you have no software education (or even actual experience)?

I call myself "president", but that damned secret service keeps gatekeeping me out of my white house.

Because you didn't capitalize it.

It's not gatekeeping. Sure, you can call yourself whatever you want but, if what you call yourself doesn't accurately reflect the expectations of others, your title means nothing and people aren't obligated to respect it. If someone doesn't want to be perceived as a douchebag, then their alternatives are to not be deceptive to people or to learn the skills to earn the title.

> people aren't obligated to respect it

There's actually a word for calling yourself something that you aren't: fraud.

I agree with you in general.

However I don’t understand how this relates to the article. Could you elaborate?

E.g. how would you address the difficulties described in the text?

> This wouldn’t have been a major problem unless it affected the entire industry: (...)

the gatekeeping in software is sad. why is it that so many in our field feel that gatekeeping and always being correct, to the point of aggressive confrontation, is the way to do this? are we all that insecure?

David Parnas explained in an interview:

Q: What is the most often-overlooked risk in software engineering?

A: Incompetent programmers. There are estimates that the number of programmers needed in the U.S. exceeds 200,000. This is entirely misleading. It is not a quantity problem; we have a quality problem. One bad programmer can easily create two new jobs a year. Hiring more bad programmers will just increase our perceived need for them. If we had more good programmers, and could easily identify them, we would need fewer, not more.

... most software developers will have direct exposure to/experience with one or more such incompetent programmers.

I think to some degree there's usefulness in gatekeeping titles - as titles could be a great way to know areas or level of expertise. Key word "could" be.

Unfortunately the nature of language combined with personally assigned titles means that there's no point in even trying because, i think, it's impossible. Call yourself whatever you want. I'm still going to need to vet it for myself if i need to hire you.

titles are often just a way to make an employee feel self important without giving them a raise. see pmarca and zuck discussing this.

Call yourself whatever you want. There's no need to be accurate.

I disagree. It's blurry and not so clear cut but certain ranks need to be earned otherwise it's fraud.

For example what if I called myself a Navy Seal and combat veteran even though I'm not? That would be dishonorable and insulting to people who actually risked their lives.

It's blurry and not so clear cut but certain ranks need to be earned otherwise it's fraud.

Like all the "engineers" on HN who are really just programmers. There's a word that's been bastardized over the last three decades.

It used to be a common joke: A garbage man is a "sanitation engineer." A housewife is a "domestic engineer." A farmer is an "agricultural engineer." Then for some reason, the SV bubble latched on to "software engineer," without understanding that it was supposed to be a joke. Maybe they felt bad because they had to work with electrical engineers.

I ran into a guy in a bar once who introduced himself as a "software engineer." I asked what engineering board licensed him to use that title. He said none, but that he's an "engineer" because he designs complex systems.

Structural engineer = engineer. Electrical engineer = engineer. Architectural engineer = engineer. Guy who pushes buttons = programmer.

California state law defines engineer: "consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning or design of public or private utilities, structures, machines, processes, circuits, buildings, equipment or projects, and supervision of construction"

Programming and Software Engineering are two different things, and I'll challenge anyone that says otherwise.

Why? Because the ability to program is a subset of what a software engineer needs to be able to do. Granted, it's an IMPORTANT subset, but to create, or "engineer" good software on any truly useful scale, one needs other very, very important skills.

Engineering is based on the idea that you are using some degree of scientifically sound principle to create something in practice. That applies to creating software. There are clear, scientifically rigorous axioms, corollaries, etc that dictate ways that software can be written effectively, from the basic instructions a computer can process all the way up to the highest levels of abstraction. Software standards are developed that define ways that software should be written to take advantage of this scientific resource, and a huge part of writing effective and useful software is managing how one spends their time creating, refactoring, testing, and deploying/publishing that software. That is NOT an easy problem, and it is distinct from programming in and of itself.

The idea that a "board" has to exist to say whether or not something is an engineering practice doesn't hold water because it's the science underpinning the practice that makes it engineering.

>Then for some reason, the SV bubble latched on to "software engineer," without understanding that it was supposed to be a joke.

It started as a joke? I had no idea. Is there a definitive source or initial point where it all started? Link or story perhaps?

Is there a definitive source or initial point where it all started? Link or story perhaps?

It's pre-web. No links. You had to be there.

Software engineers used to be able to get licensed. I think in Virginia the last time it was applicable was 2011.

...also a bit insulting to all the innocent victims in some poor countries.

It would be a federal misdemeanor, not just "dishonest" which is why the analogy sucks. Going to compare yourself to a veteran to make a point about developers is pretty low.

> It would be a federal misdemeanor

Not quite. Stolen valor can only be charged when it's provable that the person in question benefited in some way, usually financially, from the lie.

Don't get me wrong, it's a dickish and incredibly disrespectful thing to do, but it isn't illegal in and of itself.

Edit: IANAL, but I've read a good bit about this particular subject.

Don't call me low that's rude. I find it low whenever a commenter on HN decides to be call someone low simply because they disagree. You're using words to twist my statement as if I'm insulting veterans. I clearly am not, don't try to manipulate others' into thinking that's what I'm doing.

I'm saying that you can't call yourself whatever you want in all cases. I use an extreme example to illustrate that it's not so clear cut. Giving yourself titles doesn't only apply to developers and it's not so clear cut why we can only be so laissez faire in software but not in other certain fields.

I didn't fall it low because I disagreed I called it lo because you jumped to a low analogy.

And you using a legally protected status to talk about developers is not relevant and a poor analogy but ok. You using veterans is low.

It's not low at all. It is also 100% relevant. It's called misusing titles which is the topic at hand. In some cases it's ok in some cases it's not ok. I have not insulted veterans in any way.

You're just trying to start a witch hunt. Not so far from pointing at me and shouting "racist" for no reason. Doing that is not just low it's vile.

You could have used doctors, or some other title. You chose to 1) Use one that has legislation protecting it so as to make your analogy worthless and 2) use veterans specifically as if you deserve to have a title protected like people putting their life on the line.

And then when confronted on it, you're now accusing me of "Starting a witch hunt" when in fact I just called out your actions directly. I never called you racist - you're bringing up nonsense to pretend you're virtuous when you're not.

And I'm ok with being called vile by someone with obviously incredibly poor judgement.

> You chose to 1) Use one that has legislation protecting it so as to make your analogy worthless and 2) use veterans specifically as if you deserve to have a title protected like people putting their life on the line.

First off you're a liar. The legislation only extends to people who used it for profit so you can legally call yourself a veteran. You lied to my face or you don't know what you're talking about. Pick one.

Second when does using veterans as an example make me low? It doesn't I just used it as an example to show how it's WRONG. get it? Probably not, people like you are incapable of knowing the difference.

You're twisting it. I never said you called me racist but what you're doing is similar. You're calling out something as insensitive when it is in no way insensitive. I could have use doctor but I chose not to because veterans were the first thing that came to my mind as wrong to impersonate. They have a term for people like you who go around starting wars for infractions that aren't even infractions: Social Justice Warriors. Get off your high horse.

>And I'm ok with being called vile by someone with obviously incredibly poor judgement.

It is vile. You're accusing me of something evil and wrong. People who don't take the time to read into what's truly going on end up burning the witch in a witch hunt. Your words are deceptive and have the possibility of stringing along a mob in this manner.

The ego is out of control.

Please. There's nothing wrong with my ego. I'm not bragging about anything. I am simply explaining to you my reasoning.

I think you need help with differentiating. I know some good therapists that can help you and can send you some recommendations.

Also it's pretty low of you to ask me to use doctors in place of veterans, doctors save more lives than veterans. Veterans usually have actually killed and slaughtered people including many people of my race and members of my family (vietnam war). You should've told me to use something like lawyers. Your arrogance of telling me to use doctors is off the charts. I wouldn't call it vile, I would call it pure delusion, that or you truly are an evil person for placing people responsible for human slaughter above people who save lives. You honoring people who killed members of my family is not just vile, it's disgusting and morally reprehensible. I don't think you did it on purpose though.

Again you need help. Let me know if you need recommendations for therapy (not a joke).

Perhaps, but this argument could be extended. Many "developers" do little more than glue together bits of framework boilerplate.

Yep - code monkeys gluing APIs and data flows together.

Feel free to gatekeep about what a "real" developer is but in the end you all just make someone else's APIs talk to each other. Oh and grind Leetcode for interviews.

I think the argument is very clear. The bare minimum to call yourself a developer is if you wrote a line of code.

Everything else are degrees of skill/competence.

Would writing an Excel function count?

> Many "developers" do little more than glue together bits of framework boilerplate.

Funny, I always thought of that as an software engineer's job.

At the end of the day nearly every developer in the world is writing code that will run on an instruction set designed by someone else. There's some shocking elitism around "glueing frameworks together", but the JS devs build on the work of npm package devs, who build on the work of the browser devs, who build on the work of the devs who wrote OpenGL/their TLS implementation/libpng, the whole lot are writing code for a compiler or interpreter of some kind, and on it goes, all the way down to the electrons.

It's the equivalent of a medical professional saying their field just makes incisions then wiggles things around - debatably true, but unnecessarily dismissive and reductive.

We always work with abstraction at ALL levels of the stack. Any stack. Even logical gates provide an abstraction that can be utilized by developers higher up on the stack. I am currently struggling to think of a single sub field of software engineering that not rely on "glueing" abstractions together.

Gluing together "bits of framework boilerplate" can be immensely valuable. There's no shortage of mid-career engineers at FANG doing just that.

Semi related but in the opposite direction:

I know a PE who worked for a local trash disposal service* many years in the past. He always put something like "waste disposal and processing engineer" on his resume and mads it sound like he was dancing around the fact that he was a garbage truck driver. His clients would always ask about it as if he was a truck driver since it looked like an oddball in the context of his resume and he loved saying "Well no, I actually designed the facilities."

*Turns out low margin industries employ a surprising number of PEs so they can rubber stamp all their facilities projects in-house without getting bent over by whatever PE firm(s) is buddy-buddy with the municipality(s) they're operating in

What's a "PE"?

Professional Engineer, e.g. Civil, Structural, Mechanical, Traffic, etc.

They are licensed by the state they do business in, and are required to pass exams and take continuing education credits.

Great thanks, never heard the term before so I'm guessing it's a US term. This is what I understand a Chartered Engineer as in the UK, but that would normally be abbreviated to CEng.

From context, likely a professional engineer.

The title looks like gatekeeping and they probably did that intentionally, to get anger-readers, but they're actually describing a specific issue: WordPress users/admins that are calling themselves developers. The problem is that they keep interviewing these folks for developer positions. That seems like a reasonable complaint, at least from an outsider point of view. Although arguably either some better filtering should happen at an earlier stage in the process... or the author is that filtering.

Just titles. They don't mean anything in this industry. Stop feeling so hurt about it.

I don't even know what my title _is_ at work. I'm sure there's an entry in a db someplace, but so what? If anyone calls me anything it's usually an SME. If I'm talking to someone new I usually just say I work with computers and leave it at that.

Well, developing a solution can include zero coding. And there it is fair to call it developing (as in continuously enhancing something... Consider there are land developers long before software.

I think the author just had a very specific problem. SAP surely has a similar problem when searching core developers and tons of SAP consultants show up.

"Only call yourself a developer if you are creating complex data structures and algorithms"

Define complex.

Obligatory XKCD: https://xkcd.com/378/

A while back I saw someone who bestowed upon them self the term 'full stack' onto their HR related title. That admittedly hurt a little to read.

But in the end they're just silly word and job titles and etc are already in a very murky place as far as relevance goes.

'full stack' seems to have devolved to mean 'generalist' in some circles.

I always thought it was that, kinda from the start ;)

You can only know so much in depth.

What did it used to mean? I honestly thought it just meant a vertical generalist.

And if you do code, call yourself a programmer

At my company, we have Technical Service Analysts and Developers. The distinction is that a developer has power to modify the application they manage, whereas a TSA only has the power to use the application they manage. Both can write code, though it tends to be that the developers write code and TSAs don't.

For example, I have a TSA that manages our API gateway. They can't modify that application by updating it's codebase, but have the power to deploy stuff and write config scripts for it. As a developer, I manage a front end application, so I have the power to change the code for this application, but I don't have the power to deploy it and I don't really use it.

So I really think being a developer or not is based around what you have power over as an individual.

Different (and niche) industries use words to describe what they do. Sometimes those words collide in meaning when applied to different specialties. I've worked in an industry where people use the word "programming" to describe using a GUI to configure software. No code is written. It's just data entry.

The word has changed meaning in that industry and it's not really my place to tell everyone they're wrong. I just need to be more descriptive when I talk about what I do.

Don't call yourself a developer unless you renovate or build properties.

stop telling me to stop calling myself a Senior Comment Developer, besides I am a well known upvote hacker.

I have read more code than I have written. What is a suitable title for me?

I've been paid to create software in LabVIEW.

Checkmate, I guess?

Who cares?

People who are trying to hire developers, for one.

literally who cares

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